Bilal Khan has a knack for staying in the music scene through the release of songs and videos.
The man behind hits like Bachana and Toh Kya Hua tells Images on Sunday that he has been playing in America, the UK and Canada, besides collaborating with various artistes.
“I was in the U.S. for the past few years, getting life experiences, travelling and writing songs. Along the way, I have released a few rough versions of new songs with videos (Bijliyaan), some cover songs (an Urdu cover of a Coldplay number), played a lot of shows in UK, U.S. and Canada and just spent a ton of time trying to hone my songwriting chops."
"I have been working on music a lot. Although, it’s not obvious right now but I feel it will all make sense one day.”
"Watching bands live has altered my approach towards performances"
“I met John Mayer in the U.S. and saw him perform up close — he was my music hero while growing up. It was a very inspiring experience. I also saw Adele at O2 recently in London. Again, it’s one of those experiences, which has really affected me. I’ve jammed with many musicians in the west and I think it has expanded my abilities."
“I’m close to the new sound I’ve been searching for, and I’m less scared of experimenting now,” says Bilal Khan
"I've also heard a lot of new music. I’ve really explored my capabilities as a performer too. I have experimented with new gear like a loop pedal and drum machine. Staying away from Pakistan also made me miss home a lot, so I got into old Pakistani and Indian songs.”
Self (not selfie)-awareness
“I think I have gained experiences I only saw in movies and I've collected new stories and themes that will definitely come out in my songs. Another thing that I have really learnt to do is to work on my ability to disconnect from my phone and the online world. I don’t post as much on social media."
"It takes a lot of discipline to disconnect. It’s so easy to squint your eyes, pout and post a selfie on Instagram with a cool caption and the right filter. It’s infinitely harder to write a song that captures how you feel. Playing the ‘likes’ game can be temporarily satisfying but it doesn’t hold much value in the real world, and takes away my focus.
"Creating art requires long stretches of focused work and I realised constant notifications on my phone didn’t do me any good."
He adds, "I have nothing against social media, in fact I think I was one of the first musicians in Pakistan to use YouTube and set up a Facebook fan page. However, for me it has always been about making the best music I can, first. I want people to remember me by saying something like ‘I love your song, it made my day’ rather than ‘Oh wow, you have a million followers on Facebook’.
“I just played a few concerts in Pakistan and the UK. Apart from that, I've been in the studio, working with different people as well as on my own, spent a lot of time learning sound production. I feel I needed to evolve my sound and I think I am getting close to it."
"I think I am finally getting close to that new sound I have been searching for. I am also less scared of experimenting now. I find playing safe boring and don’t fear criticism as much as I used to."
"Songs like Bachana and Toh Kya Hua worked so well because they were a fresh sound, and finding a new sound that suits my style has been a challenge but a lot of fun too."
“I’ve also been listening to different kinds of music: indie electronic artists like Lapsley, Kiiara, James Blake, etc. I loved the new Coldplay album too — Up & Up was my favourite song of that record and it's video is so good. Adele’s new album had tons of great songs and Drake’s Views is another great record."
"Some other pop songs I really like are 7 Years by Lukas Graham, I took a pill in Ibiza by Mike Posner, and Needed Me by Rihanna. Apart from pop, I have just been listening to a lot of folk, Americana and roots music. I could name a lot of artists in those genres.”
New music coming out soon?
“I wish I could give an exact date. There are times when I record something and I’m like ‘I want to release this so bad right now’! But I have to think holistically and not put out something that’s not finished. I’m not going to make cliché statements either like ‘It’s coming out on Eid’. I’ll just drop it all together, when it’s ready, without hyping or lining up a release."
"I know it’s sometime soon. I’m in a very good creative zone right now and I don’t know how long it will last. I have faith that taking all this time to make the new songs will be worth it. And then I can go do the ‘pop star’ thing when its time.”
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, June 12th, 2016